Hope Is The Thing With Feathers – Always Stays, Always Sings

Hope is the thing with feathers cover image

Emily Dickinson is known for her simple yet elegant, short yet powerful, and unconventional yet familiar poetry. Her works dive into the emotions, the hopes, the fears, and the lives of every one of us. Hope is the Thing with Feather is one such poem with all the qualities stated above. Take a look at the poem and then we’ll try to expand on the intricate beauty in her writing.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

The meaning of the poem 

There is metaphorical magic in the poem, created by the magical use of metaphors. Hope is compared to a bird that sings sweet tunes. While with one quick read, one can understand what Dickinson is trying to convey, it is the detailed reading that brings the poem to its true shining form.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

Hope is like a bird that sits nowhere but the soul. Remember that hope is not a thought and it never comes to your brain, because then it would be rejected by the worries and uncertainties. Hope sits somewhere deeper, somewhere we cannot locate. 

This bird sings the tune without words. What does this mean? Hope is not a plan or strategy. There is no blueprint for why you’ll succeed. Hope just makes you believe that you will. Words represent the actual method or process of how you’ll succeed, but the hope is just the feeling of getting over the difficulties.

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

This is another one of hope’s qualities. In the gale, it is the sweetest which means that when there are minor challenges ahead, hope is so soothing and empowering. Hope never breaks easily. It has to be a severe, devastating storm that has the power to take away hope’s power and sweetness. Only severe challenges can sometimes make hope powerless and just an illusion.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

The last stanza of this poem is about the power of hope and why Dickinson thinks that only the strongest of storms can render hope powerless. Dickinson talks about how she has seen hope fly and sing in some of the harshest conditions. The brilliant use of metaphors shows the genius of Dickinson and let me show you why. 

Chillest land represents cold, lonely situations that lack love and warmth. Even in these times, hope sings. The bird always perches on your soul and sings sweet tunes. 

Strangest seas represent being stranded and there is no place to go. An unfamiliar place and there seems no way to take over this large challenge. This is also the place hope sings its tunes. Be it cold lands or strange seas, hope always comes. 

The other great thing about hope is that it costs nothing. In the last two lines of the last stanza, Dickinson says that Yet never in extremity, It asked a crumb of me. So no matter how harsh the times are, hope costs nothing. The bird sings for all, always without asking for anything, but always comforting for your heart. 

Hope is the thing with feathers poem
“Hope” is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson

The characteristics of Dickinson poems 

Emily Dickinson wrote all her poems for herself, never for publications. This is why you can see the idiosyncratic style in her poems, the irregular pauses, hyphens, and the pure emotion that’s put into the poem. 

The poem also is about the self rather than the things about the self. It is not about the world, other people, or anything that’s not internal. It is about what Dickinson thinks about something familiar to all humans. I’ll link some more poems by her that show the selection of topics that are deep-seated into the human soul. 

One can also see the rhyming pattern in this poem that is very Dickinson-Esque. The poem has a rhyming pattern of abcb but that’s not all. The first stanza has a rhyming scheme of abcb but the first and third lines have slanting rhyme. Feathers and birds don’t rhyme exactly, but there is a bit of rhyme there. 

The second stanza has a rhyming scheme of abab, although there is a bit of slant rhyme there. In the third stanza, again we have a rhyming scheme of abab. This just shows how Dickinson wrote for herself, never for anyone else, never following any norms, and truly expressed herself in all freedom. 

This concludes the article. If you liked this poem by Emily Dickinson, then you have to check these poems by her because the thing about Emily Dickinson’s poems is one is never enough. So check these out:

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